At the last meeting of the Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition, I listened with interest as Billy Binder updatedthe Board on various bicycle projects going on in the city as well as neededaction and opposition to said projects. I was quite dismayed when I heard him talk about the opposition to bicyclists from business groups and various citizens groups in downtown Minneapolis. Said opposition is apparently due to behavior of bicyclists in downtown.
As I ride in the downtown area to get to work, I thought, how can this be? What could possibly be generating this dislike? I decided I would watch the behavior of other cyclists to determine what the problem might be. I was pleased to see the many cyclists downtown, many of them “obeying the rules” but I was disheartened by some of the behavior I witnessed. What would possess someone to cross a street against the light when a city bus is clearly coming straight at you? Why would cyclists bomb up and down crowded sidewalks, weaving in and out of pedestrians, said bicyclists going in either direction as are the pedestrians. This is only some of the bad behavior I witnessed, and I have to say, I was ashamed.
I started talking about this with other cyclists and Janne said it best: when something is correct/perfect/not out of alignment/well behaved or just the way it is supposed to be, you don’t notice it. Only when something is crooked/out of alignment or just plain wrong, does our eye zoom in on the imperfection or offending action.
So . . . I took another look around. Many of us are “doing it right.” We’re not riding on the sidewalks, we’re not bombing pedestrians, and we are stopping at red lights and stops signs. Does any one notice? No – we are doing the expected so we are not noticed.
I wish I could say I have a solution to the problem of poor biking habits, but I don’t. I do try to model good behavior and if I get a chance I strike up a conversation and mention the three most common causes of death among cyclists: riding on the sidewalk, being doored or riding the wrong direction. I mention that running a red light only works because others are following the rules and I hope they don’t run into another rule breaker. I’d like to think I’ve at least given them something to think about.
If anyone else has any suggestions, I’d love to hear tthem!